Black Lives Matter demonstrations took place across the nation during the month of June in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd (Photo by Breanna Reeves).

Breanna Reeves |

May 25, 2022 will mark the third year since the murder of George Floyd. Following the widely circulated cell phone footage of Floyd’s death, a series of protests and demonstrations erupted across the state with Black Lives Matter activists leading the conversation surrounding police brutality and racial violence.

While the demonstrations may have dialed down, the ongoing struggle for racial and social justice will forever be immortalized through a series of artwork created by more than 25 Southern California artists. 

On April 9, the Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties at Riverside Community College District welcomed a new exhibit called “Black Lives Matter: Voices of Protest, Activism, and Art.” The exhibition features the work of local artists who used paint, photography, mixed media and mosaic tiles to create striking visuals of Black people like Colin Kapernick, Celia Cruz and George Floyd.

In June 20202, demonstrations were held across Riverside as advocates took to the streets to march in support of the movement for Black lives. In response to the protests, storefront owners boarded up their windows to prevent damage. The plywood used to protect windows from being broken became canvasses for local artists to create portraits that depicted Black lives.

Nearly two years after the protests, those murals appeared to have been lost to the public until Tracy Fisher retrieved them from a storage container in Fairmount Park. Fisher, the director of the Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties at Riverside Community College District, wondered about the murals after the protests and came up with an idea after she located them.

Two people sit on a bench as they view a series of photographs by Michael J. Elderman on display at the Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties on opening day, Saturday, April 9, 2022 (Photo by Breanna Reeves).

“What ever happened to the murals that were created during that [time],” Tracy asked? Dozens of murals were created during the “summer of protest” where demonstrations took place across not only Riverside, but the world in response to the murder of Floyd.

Fisher’s decision to showcase the artwork stemmed from wanting to bring them into a purposeful space while also reigniting the Center for Social Justice & Civil Liberties.

“I think of Black Lives Matter as unfinished, and that, for me, is the importance of having it here and now, particularly having it in (the Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties),” Fisher explained. “When we think about not just what people are standing against, but what they’re also kind of fighting for.”

The exhibition includes murals that were created on pieces of wood from two years ago, and also features photography by local artists who captured the protests and the process of the murals being created during 2020.

Through his lens, Carlos Puma captured the process of three artists as they painted murals on plywood. From start to finish, Puma photographed the steps artists took to create their murals and then shot portraits of the artists in front of their finished work. This series of photographs will be part of a larger series that Puma hopes to put in a book called “Boarded Up.”

Artists Denise Silva (left) and Amparo Cortez Chi (right) paint next to one another as they create murals during the summer of 2020 (Photo by Carlos Puma).

“My intent, I think, was that sometimes we as people have real short memories, so it was important for me to be able to tell that story, which I think is interesting,” Puma said. “But also to document it for prosperity as well, so we can have a document of what happened.”

Puma explained that not everyone had the opportunity to see the murals when they were initially created two years ago. There was an uncertainty regarding if the murals would ever be seen again, so photographing the murals and the artists was important to Puma.

“The boarded up windows of our businesses ended up becoming something beautiful, especially during this time. If you remember, there were no galleries, no museums that were open. So all of a sudden this turned into not just something to beautify the city, but something for people in our community to be able to have access to — art that they wouldn’t have had because everything was closed.”

Puma’s photographs depict the murals in all their glory, before they were defaced with black spray paint, eggs and offensive symbols. Fisher made the executive decision to present the murals as they are, including the swastika and egg drippings that defaced the mural by Ariel Gonzalez depicting George Floyd.

Ariel Gonzalez poses next to his completed mural of George Floyd before it was defaced during the summer of 2020 (Photo by Carlos Puma)

Gonzalez was asked to participate in creating a mural during the summer of 2020. The news of George Floyd’s murder was fresh in Gonzalez’s mind. Initially, Gonzalez was unsure about taking on the responsibility of creating a mural of Floyd, but as time passed, Gonzalez was encouraged by passersby and bystanders who supported the mural.

“It’s always an honor and a privilege to work in art. It’s a bigger honor to be a part of the Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties,” Gonzalez said. “I’m a little disappointed that they ended up defacing the mural in such a really hateful way, but I think that just shows the reality of what is still going on. There’s a history of racism that’s going on. It hasn’t ended just because the protests have simmered down.”

Other artwork is featured in the exhibit by local artists like Maurice Howard whose four masks are displayed. The artwork on the masks exhibit Howard’s signature design called tidal wave — a symbol of longevity of life — which is seen in nearly all of his art. 

Other artists include Erin Maroufkhani, Denise Silva, Johnny PEE, Cathy Maxwell, Denise Silva and Michael J. Elderman.

The exhibition is free and open to the public through July 8, 2022 at the The Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties at Riverside Community College District at 3855 Market Street, Riverside, CA.

Breanna Reeves

Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master’s degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at breanna@voicemediaventures.com or via twitter @_breereeves.